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Trip Report TRIP REPORT – Rome, Venice and Northern Italy
May 2005
TRIP REPORT – Rome, Venice and Northern Italy
May 2005
TRIP REPORT – Rome, Venice and Northern Italy
May 2005
TRIP REPORT - Rome, Venice and Northern Italy May 2005

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TRIP REPORT – Rome, Venice and Northern Italy

I spent a lot of time on these boards asking questions and reading other people’s posts when I was planning my trip to Italy. This community is great. So in an attempt to give back to this community and maybe to help someone plan their trip, I’m posting a report on my recent Rome, Venice and Northern Italy trip that I just came back from.

I’m not going to do it exactly in chronological order, but rather, break my report down into hotels, restaurants and then sights and activities in each city or location.

Of course these are my opinions. Some may agree, and some may vehemently disagree with me. I have a feeling passions are going to flare on my review of Il Bacaro (restaurant in Rome) but that’s what makes this board so great!

But to understand where my opinions are coming from, let me just give you some of my stats and philosophy of traveling. Only to help you decide whether or not you want to listen to me!!

I’m a 42 year old male living in Los Angeles

Married and my wife is pregnant with our first child

When I travel, I like to see as much as I can

But I also like to just walk around and get a feel for the people and places I’m visiting

I tend to splurge on trips

There are the two things I look for in a hotel room in Europe – an American type shower, and an air-conditioner in the cities. Not everyone agrees with this, but hey, that’s me!

I’m not really interested in food, and would be happy to grab a sandwich while I sight see, but my wife is very interested in food, and so is my brother and mother.

Oh, yeah, one other thing about this trip – I spent 3 days alone with my wife in Rome, and then we met up with my older brother (56) my mother (just turned 80) and my nephew (just turned 20) in Venice. We were with my family for the rest of the trip in Northern Italy.

There’s no people like family who will eagerly and conscientiously point out how you’re wrong about absolutely everything. Not an ideal group for a vacation, but we were celebrating my mother’s 80th.

Our trip was from May 11 – May 27, 2005

Let’s get started -


3 days and 4 nights

Crowded beyond belief with tourists. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s disappointing, because I never got a sense of what the Romans were like…all I kept seeing were tourists!

Think, Las Vegas with culture. And this is only the beginning of tourist season! When I return to Rome, next time I’m going off off season.


Hotel San Francesco

This hotel is in the Trastavere section of Rome. We liked it and recommend it.

Small hotel with great service. Decent size rooms, even better sized bathrooms. Cost us 190 Euros a night, which included an amazing breakfast buffet each morning with fresh eggs and sausages. I didn’t think having a breakfast was necessary for a hotel, but it is so convenient if you can wake up, have breakfast right downstairs, and get your day going.

Restaurants we went to in Rome:

1. Sabatini
Piazza Santa Maria In Trastevere
(06) 581 – 2026

I thought the food was very very salty. My wife is pregnant, so while she admitted that the food was overly salted and had way too much garlic on it, she was happy because she could finally taste things!!

The atmosphere was fantastic, though. You’re sitting outside of an ancient church…people come and hang out in the square, performers doing their thing…but still the square was lower key than the atmosphere in Plaza Navone (which we saw a few nights later) but still very lively. What I mean by lower key was that I found that in a lot of the other Piazzas at night it was a big scene…but that scene was tourists watching…other tourists walk around. For the most part. Some of these places were so crowded you couldn’t even walk around.

This smaller Piazza seemed to have more Romans hanging out than the others, so much more interesting for me. And I learned later how lucky I was to stumble into this area.

2.Quinzi e Gabrieli, via delle Coppelle 5.
Tel: 06 687 9389.
Reservations essential.

We went here because the seafood is suppose to be some of the best in Rome. This place is hugely expensive. So not for everyone. But this was going to be the night my wife and I splurged.

Food was fantastic. Really great. And we went early so the waiters hung around our table and talked to us a lot. Great place…if you want to spend this kind of money. I’m talking about $300 for 2 people!!

3. Il Bacaro
Via degli Spagnoli 27

I read about this place on this board so I wanted to take my wife here for what a lot of people said was a romantic dinner with great food.

Hate to disagree with the board but the worst dinner we had in Italy, not just Rome. The food was tasteless. The menu wasn’t traditional Italian, but something a little new. But the dishes were so uninteresting and poorly made I was disappointed.

The service was incredibly slow, although that isn’t really important when you’re on vacation. However, my wife, as I said, is pregnant, and it got to the point that after waiting over an hour for our main course, she got really hungry and wanted to leave and go some place else.

The people were very nice, though. And would not let us pay for what we had eaten. I insisted, but they just wouldn’t take our money. They said they their kitchen was behind that night. I know this can happen, but from the food we ate there, we were not impressed.

Let the debate begin!!

4. Lunch –
Ristorante Dai 3 Amici
Via della Rotonda, 7-8-9

Near the Pantheon. This is a great…cheap restaurant with family style service and food. High quality food. The seafood was delicious. Hell, everything was! We loved this place. Lots of Romans were eating here with their families and friends. That should tell you something.


Ristorante del Pallaro,
Largo del Pallaro 15
(tel. 06-6880-1488 )

This is recommended as one of the best deals in Rome. And it is still 20 Euros per person. I’m not very sophisticated when it comes to food, but I thought this place and the food was great.

No menus...because you get everything this family-run Italian family ristorante cooks up daily!

We sat in the kitchen with Mama who was running the cooking. She didn’t speak a word of English, but she served us every course, I rubbed my stomach or pursed my lips to say how good it was, and she kissed me every time.

We had a blast here. Again, I liked the food too!!

Rome sightseeing –

These places and ideas are not presented in any particular order. It’s just all the things my wife and I were able to see in 3 days. Could have used 6 days!!

1. Il Tempietto

My wife who is an interior designer wanted to see this tiny temple more than anything else. And it was a little gem. It is considered by art books to be the best example of Renaissance Architecture in its highest most beautiful form.

We went first thing on our first morning. It was near our hotel anyway. Designed by the architect who designed St. Peters. And some say it is based on a design by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Beautiful to walk around it, Il Tempietto is in a little courtyard next to a church. This courtyard was locked, and we went into the school next door for help. Turns out, they have the key to the courtyard! So if you go to see this masterpiece, and the gate to the courtyard is locked, check with the desk at the school. They’ll help you.

Also, check out the interior of the church Il Tempietto is next to. It’s beautiful too.

2. Vatican Museum

I’m sure this is on the top of most people’s To See list who come to Rome. And it certainly was on ours. So I’ll only put down a couple of pointers.

a. We took the tour, which I don’t like doing because I like to go at my own speed and stop at the things I want to see and read about. But the tour guide was very good and very educational. I had done a lot of reading in art books and tour books before I went on the trip, so I know the guide hit all the highlights and interesting points.

However, the groups on the tours are so large, sometimes it’s hard to hear the guide, if not actually stay up with her/him during the tour. So I would strongly suggest that you look into one of those audio guides.

That’s a rule I have for all the places you are going to go to in Rome. Opt for the audio guide rather than the real person guide. Again, you go at your own speed, you stop at the items you want to stop at, and you never miss anything because you’re in the back of the group.

b. Don’t miss the gallery called The Pinacoteca. (I think that’s what it’s called.) It has a Da vinci( St. Jerome), which is always rare, and a beautiful Carvaggio (The Deposition). Actually, I’m a major Da Vinci fan, as well as a major Carvaggio fan. So I really really wanted to see these pictures.

However, the guided tour did not include this room as part of the tour. This meant that we went through the entire Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. Then our tour ended. So we had to walk back through all the galleries to get to this room. This was a 20 minute walk. Then, when we were finished with the gallery, we had to walk another 20 minutes back to go into St. Peters.

See where I’m going with this? Make sure you stop by this gallery first, when you first come up to the Vatican museum, or your going to add 40 minutes of walking to your day.

c. Try to buy tickets in advance. You don’t have to wait on long lines, and you know well in advance the time you are going to start your museum visit.

You can buy your tickets yourself through the Vatican internet site. However, I went through a ticket agency, I think it was called SelectItaly. They were great. There is another ticket broker for Italian museums and sights running out of Chicago. We used them last time and they were also terrific. It’s a little extra for these services, but I’ve never had a problem with any of their reservations, and it saved me a lot of time trying to get my tickets, especially since I don’t speak Italian.

d. Know where the Vatican museum tour starts. It’s not at St. Peters Square. If you make that mistake like we did, it’s a 25 minute walk around two buildings.

Remember, you’re going to be on your feet all day, so pick your battles! Take a cab or bus to the museum entrance.

e. Buy a small and cheap pair of binoculars. I got a $20 pair before I went to Italy. They fit in my pants pocket. This was a great move on my part, because in places like The Sistine Chapel where the pictures are a little farther away than you think, these binoculars can really help you enjoy the experience. And see things like “Creation” by Michelangelo a whole lot better. Best $20 bucks I spent in a long time, because I used them non-stop on our Italy trip.

By the way, I was surprised at how much smaller “Creation” was than I thought.

Also, while the Sistine Chapel lived up to my expectations, I can’t help remembering how nervous I was by the annoying guards who kept repeating “No pictures…No video…Sshhhhh!!!!” I was nervous that they were going to throw all of us out!! They won’t though.

f. Make sure you’ve seen everything you want to see in the Vatican Museum before you get to the Sistine Chapel. Keep in mind that sometimes it's possible to exit the museums from the Sistine Chapel right into St. Peter's, saving time and about a 40 minute walking round trip.

g. Here’s another general tip for Rome and all sightseeing – read up on things before you go. The internet is a great resource for everything, and I read up on all the art I was going to see in Rome on several different art and museum sights.

Also, between Fodors and Frommers and Rick Steves, you can get a pretty good idea what you want to see, and a great idea as to what you are seeing when you see it!

3. St. Peters –

Have to stay in the church a while to get a feel as to how big it is. You know it’s big, but not as big as it really is, because of some optical illusions the architects and artists did to make the place seem smaller.

This is a beautiful structure, and you don’t have to be Catholic to be taken by it. I’m not, and I was. Highlight:
Papal Altar and Baldacchino by Bernini

Disappointment: The Pieta by Michelangelo. Because of the glass protection, I didn’t get close enough to be moved emotionally.

By the way, I have to confess, I didn’t know a lot about Bernini before I got to Rome. Wow. This guy really knew what he was doing!!

4. Coliseum

I have to admit, this was my biggest disappointment in Italy. Obviously this is a matter of taste, but it seemed smaller than I thought it was going to be. And also we weren’t allowed to walk around the lower levels where the animals were kept and the gladiators waited to

Skip the guided tour. You are better off using the handheld audio here. It’s really good. Unless of course you get on a tour that takes you to places you can’t go yourself. But there didn’t seem to be any such tour when we were there.

I know there are guides you can hire outside the Coliseum. I don’t know what is included on their lectures. However, when I did run into a couple of these tour guides inside, I listened in for a little bit to hear what they were saying. Most of it was covered by the excellent audio tour you can rent.

Just a personal note: When we were at the Coliseum we were originally on a large tour led by one of the coliseum guides. But the noise inside the Coliseum was so loud, we couldn’t hear her. So I went to the front desk and told them I couldn’t hear our guide, and they just exchanged my tour ticket for a personal audio recording guide.

But they laughed when I complained about the noise. I didn’t know if an alarm was going off or there was a traffic jam outside in the street. The guy at the desk gave me a flier. Turns out, the noise was a work of art!

Gary Hill is a video and sound artist from Santa Monica, California. My neighborhood. And he has an exhibit going on until the end of August 2005. It’s a 3 minute sound that keeps getting repeated and repeated. I swear to god, I thought it was a traffic jam or a faulty alarm. Another annoyed tourist said it sounded like an orchestra warming up that decides not to play together after 3 minutes.

Get the message? This was the worst thing I ever heard! And the Italians laughed. I swear to god, if I had a job in the coliseum, I would have had to quit after a day of listening to this nightmare.

I did promise the Italians behind the front desk that when I get back to LA I was going to track down Mr. Hill and tell him how miserable he and his audio creation made me, and my new Italian friends behind the front desk at the Coliseum.

5. The Forum
Arch of Constantine
Other ancient ruins

My wife and I did not spend a lot of time at The Forum. For all the reading we did before the trip, it didn’t seem to interest us as much as other things. Don’t make that mistake!!

We walked through the forum for about an hour, and wished we could have spent more time there and taken the tour of the Palatine Hill. This is a must! I was not prepared at how grand and large these ruins were going to be. It was larger than I thought is was going to be!

Plan your day to tour the Forum after you see the Coliseum. It’s just around the corner.

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